Can I Really Inspire Others to Write?

To begin with, a quote from author Anne Lamott about the joys of writing: “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do — the actual act of writing — turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”


And now, another personal reflection on something Ms Lamott wrote in her wonderful book, Bird by Bird (the book is reviewed here). She writes, “If people show up in one of my classes and want to learn to write, or to write better, I can tell them everything that has helped me along the way and what it is like for me on a daily basis. I can teach them little things that may not be in any of the great books on writing.”

Whew! I am so, so, so tired of feeling like I’ve just been researching and regurgitating the wisdom of other writing teachers. Of course I do learn useful things from them, and much of it is worth passing on.

But seriously, people can just read gazillions of books and blog posts full of that same kind of information I write and teach about writing and editing (and my advice on education and lifelong learning, too); why do they need to read my blog posts, as well, and listen to me regurgitate it at workshops? Face it. A lot of times, they don’t! I’ve always worried that my writing and teaching will just be “more of the same” as all that advice other more educated and more experienced writers and teachers have been regurgitating all along.

When I read or listen, I want to be inspired! And so I expect others want to be inspired, too. But do I actually have anything inspiring to say? Wow! I think what Anne Lamott says about telling “them everything that has helped me along the way and what it is like for me on a daily basis” is really key.

And then, as one old gentleman told me firmly after one of my workshops [kind of hurt my feelings at the time, but he was right], a writing workshop is for writing … and a workshop leader should provide bits of inspiration and direction, and then let the people attending get busy and write! So I did use some of that advice at my STEPS youth writing workshops (scroll wayyyy down the linked page!) and it sure was a lot more fun. But at the same time, I felt like I was still offering too much “theory” and not enough adventure and inspiration.

But hey — I can do this! Share what’s helped me along the way and what it’s like for me day to day — and then set free those writers … to write! I can do this!